A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is a musical about depression – make of that what you will. In fact, this show seems to marry opposites at every turn: you will laugh as well as cry, you will want to sing along as well as be left speechless. Jon Brittain has, quite frankly, succeeded in creating an almost offensively upbeat, disco musical masterpiece about clinical depression – and I’d say that’s pretty impressive.
The show is startlingly funny yet bitterly real. Madeleine MacMahon’s performance as the struggling Sally is convincing through and through, without the programme stating otherwise I would genuinely have believed the show was autobiographical. She throws herself into the lows – of which there are many – yet also pours an effervescent energy into the upbeat song and dance numbers that make this show just so unique. The same is true of Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland, between them playing the entire myriad ensemble of characters central to Sally’s life and struggle, with Bipolar Tash and the insufferable Toby being some particular highlights. Hell, even the pianist Matthew Floyd Jones throws in his comedic two cents when called. All come together to culminate in a performance quite unlike any other, and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that really is saying something.
We are told explicitly at the close of the show that whether a story has a happy ending or not depends on where you choose to end it, because maybe another 5 years down the line everything has changed again. What A Super Happy Story doesn’t do, ironically, is tell us that Sally lived happily-ever-after. Just as we are shown that there is no one overarching “reason” for her depression, we are equally shown that it doesn’t ever fully go away – it isn’t a condition that can simply be fixed. A Super Happy Story may not lower the curtain on Sally being happy per se, but it does end on her being not too bad and as the show tells us: once you’ve been bad, being not bad feels pretty damn good.
Words: Emily Hay
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), Pleasance Courtyard, Aug 2-28, 2.20pm